An Indian Air Force repatriation flight on Sunday evacuated 168 passengers, including 107 Indians, from Afghanistan, reported NDTV. The flight, which was also carrying two Afghan senators and 24 Afghan Sikhs, landed at the Hindon air base in Ghaziabad.
Those evacuated from Afghanistan were likely to be shifted to the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara in Delhi, NDTV reported.
The passengers took RT-PCR tests for Covid-19 at the airport. They will all be given free polio vaccines, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said.
Three other flights belonging to Air India, IndiGo and Vistara, carrying Indians citizens, left Kabul and landed in Dushanbe in Tajikistan and Qatar’s Doha. The flight from Tajikistan, carrying 87 Indians and two Nepali citizens, arrived in Delhi earlier in the day, reported the Hindustan Times. The flight from Doha with 135 Indians on board has left Qatar, according to ANI.
The evacuation efforts came as the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan on August 15, entering the presidential palace in the capital Kabul and ending an insurgent offensive that ripped through the country in 10 days. On the same day, President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. He is currently in the United Arab Emirates.
Following the Taliban’s takeover, chaotic scenes had unfolded in the country as thousands fearful of the Taliban rule desperately thronged the airport in an attempt to flee the war-torn country.
An unidentified North Atlantic Treaty Organization official told Reuters that at least 20 people have died in and around the airport over the last week. The British government confirmed seven deaths on Sunday.
Last week, some videos showed horrifying images of two people who tried to escape Kabul by clinging to a plane fall after takeoff.
Meanwhile, those evacuated from Afghanistan spoke to the media about being relieved as they had been able to escape, but some expressed uncertainty about how they would rebuild their lives in India.
Afghanistan MP Narender Singh Khalsa broke down while speaking to reporters at the Hindon air base, reported ANI. “Our ancestors had been living in the country for ages,” he said. “Everything that was built in the last 20 years is now finished. It’s zero now.”
An Afghan citizen who arrived in India with her daughter and two grandchildren, said that the Taliban burnt down her house. “I thank India for helping us,” she said.
“I don’t know what I will do here,” Rajiv Malik, who came to India with his family, told The Indian Express. “I built a life there [in Afghanistan]…it’s all gone. Earlier, we thought we could stay in Afghanistan but the Taliban men started burning houses in the area. I am happy my family got saved in time.”
Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday spoke to his German counterpart Heiko Maas on the challenges related to emergency evacuation from Kabul. The two leaders also discussed policy implications due to the situation in the conflict-torn country.